Tuesday, August 30, 2005

All in the Interest of Justice or something ...

I seem to possess an almost unerring instinct for homing in on these kinds of stories in the daily press and it frustrates me. On the one hand they are trite and usually unimportant and yet on another level they scream out in protest with the absurdidty they represent. Yet our world seems to have acquired the ability to absorb almost any absurdidty without so much as a blink.

The most recent story to hit me between the eyes in this way was a short piece from Canadian Press that appeared in my local paper. It was the headline over it that caught my eye - "Pay equity case ending 28 years after."

If the story is accurate these are the circumstances: Apparently some 28 years ago (that makes it about 1977) some 2,000 Canada Post employees filed a pay equity complaint. The complaint ended up before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. At first I thought that the problem was that the documents had simply gotten misplaced in someone's filing system, but the truth is much stranger than that.

At least, if the complaint did get misplaced, it wasn't lost forever. No mention is made of the first 16 years or so of the complaints existence, but we are told that the case resulted in some 417 days of hearings between 1992 and 2003. The Tribunal has explained that the further two year delay in issuing its findings is due to the fact that two members of the Tribunal have had to spend time reading the documents following the hearings. However, do not fear an answer is forthcoming. A spokesperson for the Tribunal has just issued an assurance that the decision of the Tribunal will be released this fall (2005).

Now, I trust that you are curious as to what great principle in pay equity was so fundamental to the Canadian work force that it deserved 417 days of hearings and some 28 years of research and preparation. Well, you will just have to go on being curious! As though it was a mater of national security, the Canadian Press article declines to offer even a hint. The original complaint related to pay equity and beyond that the article allows only that the case is "complex." Well, it is hard to argue with that. If it wasn't when it started one can be assured that after 417 days of hearings and 28 years of cycling through through the hands of a myriad of bureaucrats it is guaranteed to have become complex.

But we are about to be rescued. A verdict will be issued. The world will be put straight and if any of the parties to the orignal complaint are still alive they can have the satisfaction of appreciating another benefit of longevity.

No hurdle is too great to prevent the working out of justice in the bureaucracies of our great land.

It is to be noted that there is a hint of confusion in the article about the actual duration of this ordeal. The headline clearly states 28 years though a spokeperson for one of the original complainants refers to waiting 22 years for a response. But what's six years when we are finally going to get the verdict of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

However, I am not considering the case to be finished just yet. The article doesn't go into it but I assume that there must be some appeal process available. After all, this is Canada!

In my spare time I am presently working on a paper that proposes a modified "Gladiator" approach to the resolution of a myriad of conciliation and labour disputes. Each side in such a dispute would be able to select a Champion from amongst their number who would seek to defeat their chosen opponent in a best of three tourney. The jousters could be offered a choice amongst such endeavours as darts, ping pong, tiddley winks and even such assertive activities as arm wrestling. The winner of the toss gets to choose the event. Within an hour or two, in a public venue, right under the eyes of all the interested parties, the whole matter could be resolved.

But it might not be resolved justly, you protest?

Well, at least it wouldn't take 28 years, I reply!

(The article in question appeared on page A12 of the Monday, August 29th., 2005, issue of the Hamilton Spectator.)

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